Is Basalt Magnetic? (Properties & Uses)

is-basalt-magnetic

Have you ever wondered what the moon’s dark patches are? The darker regions of the moon consist of basalt, whereas the rest are made of metals. Because basalt is widespread, you might be curious about its various properties. Is basalt magnetic? It is one of the most common questions that most people ask.  

We first define basalt before responding to this question later in this article.  The formation of basalt, where it is found and whether it is an igneous or sedimentary rock are all discussed after answering whether basalt is magnetic. Finally, we discuss the properties and uses of basalt. 

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What is Basalt?

Basalt is a volcanic rock high in iron and magnesium but low in silica. Lava that quickly cools above the surface forms basalt. The rock mineral basalt comes in many colors, from black to dark gray. Basalt’s dark hues result from the minerals that form it. Examples of minerals are olivine, pyroxene, plagioclase, and many others. 

Basalt is classified as mafic because it contains a lot of iron and magnesium. While certain types of basalt are thick and fine-grained, others have a glassy structure.  Basalt is unique due to its vesicularity, which refers to gas pockets. As the lava cools, gas becomes trapped. However, not all basalt rocks, even those with gas pockets, are vesicular. 

Will a Magnet Stick To Basalt?

Yes, basalt will stick to a magnet. Due to numerous oxide minerals comprising basalt, it can develop powerful magnetic moments when it cools. High magnetic iron and magnesium concentrations are commonly found in olivine, pyroxene, and plagioclase minerals. They are the main components of basalt, making it paramagnetic. 

In the direction of the magnetic field’s magnetizing field, paramagnetic materials frequently become weakly magnetized. While some paramagnetic materials maintain a permanent magnetic moment, others retain a permanent dipole moment. However, removing the applied field stops the material from being magnetic. 

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Basalt rocks are magnetic moments grouped into particle size form. Magnets tend to be attracted to regions of basalt that contain magnetite. Basalt becomes marginally magnetic when subjected to a magnetic field. The magnetic strength of basalt is not very strong, though.

Adam West, on his YouTube channel, shows us.

Is Volcanic Basalt Magnetic?

Volcanic basalt is magnetic. Most of the volcanic lava is rich in molten iron. Iron is a strong magnet. The iron-rich minerals solidify first as the magma cools and becomes rock. Magnetite is also found in basaltic volcanic rock as well. Magnetite crystals behave like tiny compass needles and easily align to a magnetic field. 

Lava’s magnetic properties freeze as it cools below 1020°F (549°C), recording the earth’s magnetic field. It is safe to say that volcanic basalt is paramagnetic as a result. Paramagnetism occurs when unpaired electrons spin in the same direction. Spinning electrons behave like a small bar magnet. 

After removing an applied field, rocks and minerals remain magnetic, forming permanent weak magnets. We have already defined volcanic basalt as a type of rock. On Earth, it is the most common type of volcanic rock.

basalt-rock

How Is Basalt Formed?

Basalt forms as molten lava solidifies. Basalt formation occurs during the quick cooling of lava high in iron and magnesium. The lava solidifies when exposed to air when extremely close to a planet or moon’s surface. Common minerals in basalt include pyrite, olivine, quartz, plagioclase feldspar, biotite, and hornblende. All of these minerals are available in a variety of colors. 

Basalt’s dark color is primarily a result of calcium oxide and magnesium oxide. The main minerals that make up basalt and their properties are shown in the table below. 

Type of MineralProperties
Olivine-It is an olive-green, magnesium-iron silicate mineral that comes in various forms, including fayalite and forsterite.
-Affects the chemical structure and physical characteristics of basalt.
-Less abundant than pyroxene and plagioclase feldspar in terms of spread.
Magnetite-A particular form of iron oxide that is a prominent component of basalt.
-Occurs as small black or gray grains and is present in high concentrations.
Pyroxene-Belongs to the silicate mineral family.
-Augite is the most common pyroxene basalt.
-A mineral with a colorful crystal structure and a dark tint.
-Occurs in several forms, like pigeonite and hypersthene.
-Pyroxene minerals influence basalt’s composition and texture.
Plagioclase Feldspar-40–60% of basalt’s composition comprises this mineral, which is calcium-rich and a member of the plagioclase mineral family.
-The mineral has a prismatic crystal structure and light gray color.
Other minerals-Basalt contains other minor minerals such as apatite, ilmenite, and amphiboles.

The minerals listed in the above table influence basalt’s texture, composition, and physical attributes. Their study sheds light on the origin and development of basalt rock. 

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Where Is Basalt Found?

Due to its origin from volcanic activity, basalt is widespread in volcanic locations. The presence of basalt on the moon’s surface indicates that there were once active volcanoes all around it. The term “continental basalt” refers to basalt that frequently forms on the continents due to volcanic activity. After a large-scale eruption or series of eruptions that cover a large area of land, continental basalt develops. 

Basalt makes up over 60% of the earth’s crust. Oceanic basalt makes up most of the ocean floor on Earth. Along the tectonic plate-moving mid-ocean ridges, basalt forms. Magma rises and solidifies as basaltic lava. Enormous underwater volcanic mountain ranges called mid-oceanic ridges emerge. 

Basalt is also present in the following places: 

  • Celestial objects such as meteorites and asteroids: The solar system’s asteroid belt is between Jupiter and Mars. Smaller than a planet, an asteroid is a solid object orbiting the sun. A meteorite is a tiny piece formed by colliding two asteroids or comets. Meteriorates are basalt-based compositions.
  • Found in terrestrial planets such as Mars: Basalt rock forms the primary crust of planet Mars. However, the basalt on Mars is different from the one found on Earth. 
  • Island basalt: Did you know basaltic lava flows make up most Hawaiian islands? The islands were created by hotspot-related volcanic activity. Hotspots are locations where magma rises from the earth’s mantle. On the ocean floor, basaltic lava erupts, building up over time to produce volcanic islands. 
  • Rift basalt: It mostly happens in areas of continental rifting. Here, the Earth’s crust begins to separate and thin, which causes magma to upwell and basaltic magma to erupt. Examples of rift basalt include the Rift Valley system in East Africa and the Rio Grand Rift in the United States. 
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Is Basalt An Igneous or Sedimentary Rock?

Basalt is an igneous rock. That means that it develops as lava or magma cools and solidifies. 90% of all volcanic rocks comprise basalt, the most common igneous rock. When rocks buried deep in the earth melt, igneous rocks form. On the other hand, sedimentary rocks are built up from layers of silt, sand, dead animals, and dead plants. 

Igneous rocks fall into two categories: extrusive and intrusive. Both types are formed from mafic magma. Extrusive igneous rocks develop when solidified magma erupts to the surface of the Earth. 

However, most mafic rocks are intrusive igneous rocks when magma cools beneath the surface of the Earth. Greater density of heavy elements, such as magnesium and iron, can be found in intrusive igneous rocks. Therefore, basalt is an excellent example of an intrusive igneous rock

Other igneous rocks are granite, obsidian, gabbro, rhyolite, dacite, Kimberlite, pumice, and pegmatite. Mafic.

close-up-of-basalt-rock

Properties of Basalt

You can expect that basalt will have various properties, given that it is made up of different minerals. I have highlighted both its chemical and physical characteristics in the table below. 

Physical propertiesChemical properties
-Its color ranges from dark gray to black.-Has trace elements like cobalt, nickel, and chromium that offer insights into the geochemical processes that build the Earth’s crust. 
-Durable and strong.-Basalt has an iron and magnesium-based chemical makeup. 
-Resistance against erosion and wear.-Can undergo weathering and alteration processes that affect its chemical composition.
-Fine-grained texture particles that are difficult for the naked eye to see.
-Can handle intense pressure and big, heavy objects.
-Rock that is particularly heavy and dense.

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Uses of Basalt

Basalt has a wide range of industrial applications because of its numerous unique properties. Here are some of its main applications: 

  • Basalt is ideal for making building stones, road aggregates, crushed stones, railroad ballast, and concrete because of its durability. As a result, basalt is used to construct roads and railway structures.
  • Basalt fiber, a fiber-reinforcing material, is another product made from basalt. Basalt fiber is often used in various products, including aircraft components, recreational products, and automotive parts. 
  • It is a primary material in the manufacture of basaltic rock wool. The wool is used for residential, industrial and commercial insulation. 
  • Basalt contributes to soil formation by releasing vital elements like potassium, magnesium, and calcium due to weathering and erosion. The fertile basaltic soils can support numerous agricultural practices. 
  • Basalt combines with atmospheric carbon dioxide to create stable carbonate minerals through a process known as mineral carbonation. The method lessens the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere by storing it in a solid form. Consequently, minimizing adverse climate change. 
  • Basaltic landscapes have created several well-known landmarks and popular tourist destinations. There are Devil’s Tours in the United States, and in Northern Ireland, there are Giant Causeways. 
  • Additionally, basaltic deposits act as geothermal energy-producing reservoirs. Basaltic rocks underground are mined for hot water and steam, which are then used to produce energy. Resulting in providing a clean and sustainable energy source.

Conclusion

Various volcanic processes produce the igneous rock known as basalt. It is magnetic because it mainly contains iron and magnesium. Basalt is an interesting material that makes up 60% of the Earth’s crust and is also on the moon. 

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